One nation, one language: In an occasion of ‘Hindi Diwas’, Union Home Minister had proposed to promote Hindi as the country’s common language, which led to several protests in Non-Hindi speaking states.
- Constitution on the Hindi Language: Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with Official Language. Article 351 says that it is the duty of the Union to encourage the spread of the Hindi language so that it may serve as a medium of communication.
- Article 343(1): As per the article, the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
- Article 343 (2): The article mentioned that Hindi shall be the official language, but for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution.
- Language Act: Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote in the constituent assembly and it added, English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years.
- In early 1959, Jawaharlal Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.
- After that, the Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965 which aggravated anti-Hindi agitation.
Recently, a reference in draft NPE, 2019 to mandatory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking States set off a political storm in Tamil Nadu, which is traditionally opposed to the compulsory study of Hindi. The draft had a sentence on flexibility in the choice of language for school students. Subsequently, the reference to Hindi was dropped by the committee.
Three Language Formula
- Introduced by the first National Education Policy, the three-language formula stated that state governments should adopt and implement a study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking states, and of Hindi along with the regional language and English in the non-Hindi speaking states.
- The draft policy recommended that this three-language formula be continued and flexibility in the implementation of the formula should be provided.
- On promotion of Hindi, the NPE 1968 said every effort should be made to promote the language and that “in developing Hindi as the link language, due care should be taken to ensure that it will serve, as provided for in Article 351 of the Constitution, as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.
- The establishment, in non-Hindi States, of colleges and other institutions of higher education which use Hindi as the medium of education should be encouraged.
- Incidentally, the NPE 1986 made no change in the 1968 policy on the three-language formula and the promotion of Hindi and repeated it verbatim.
- Recent Protests against Hindi Imposition: In the wake of this contentious issue, several non-Hindi speaking states showed anger and protests against the pitch of wordings by the Union Home Minister.
- Many of pro-Kannada organizations took to streets in Bengaluru and other places in Karnataka to protest union home minister’s proposal of ‘One Nation, One Language’.
- Apart from them, other non-Hindi speaking states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andra Pradesh also saw several leaders lead protests against the proposal made.
Tamil Nadu’s Stand
- Southern states and Tamil Nadu, in particular, do not oppose the voluntary learning of Hindi. For example, the unhindered work of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, established in Chennai by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918 should be given due consideration.
- There is no bar on private schools, most of them affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, offering Hindi.
- The State has been following the two-language formula for many decades, under which only English and one regional language are compulsory in schools.
- An important aspect of the opposition to Hindi imposition is that many in Tamil Nadu see it as a fight to retain English.
- English is seen as a bulwark against Hindi as well as the language of empowerment and knowledge.
Need for a Common Language
- Influence of Foreign Language: As per the Indian Home Ministry, there is a need for common language as there is a huge influence of English on the citizens of India.
- Impact on Indian Linguistic Culture: Due to the influence of foreign language, some of the Indian languages have been losing their inherent culture of talking common tongue.
- Making Unique Identity: As per the statements, it is important to have a language of the whole country which should become the identity of India globally.
Why the Protests?
India is the home to many heterogeneous people speaking many languages and their dialects. As per the census of 2011, only 60% of total Hindi-speakers speak the native Hindi dialect. It is Article 29 that has given the right to a distinct language, script & culture to the India citizen. Southern states acknowledged that the imposition of ‘Hindi’ is a violation of Article 29. The southern States since long have been protesting against Hindi as they fear that the plan to promote Hindi might make them secondary citizens and undermine the country’s integrity. Since 1965, Tamil Nadu had resisted the imposition of Hindi and also witnessed violent protests against the proposal that Hindi would be India’s only official language. Southern states also feel that the imposition of Hindi is the hegemony of the North and the introduction of monoculture.
Pros and Cons of ‘One Nation one Language’ Pros
- Common Identity for India: As India is the country of different languages, one common languages would reflect the identity of India in the world.
- Unity among the people of India: Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India, the common Hindi language will unite people from different parts of the country.
- Glory in the multilingual nation: The people of this nation of different states are sometimes not able to communicate with each other, just because of the diversity in languages. Adopting a common national language helps them communicate with other linguistic groups.
- National Language: Indians can’t accept a foreign language as a national language. As Hindi has already been accepted as the Official language, imposition can provide its national status.
- Hindi Imperialism: Many of the critics believed that imposition of one common language for India as an imposition of Hindi imperialism for others Non-Hindi speaking
- Breaking the diversity & beauty of the Tongues: As India is a diverse country with many languages, the imposition of Hindi as a common language will break the beauty of diversity in languages.
Threats to Mother Language
- When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, mode of thinking and expression are lost.
- At least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. UN says every two weeks a language disappears.
- Only a few hundred languages have a place in education systems and public domain.
- Less than a hundred languages used in the digital world.
- Rush to learn foreign languages for better job opportunities have played a deceptive role.
Importance of Mother Language
- It is Important in shaping feelings, emotions and thought processes.
- It maintains the languages of an ethnic and cultural group that is critical to preserve cultural heritage and identify.
- Using one’s mother tongue at home makes it easier for children to be comfortable with cultural identity.
- It develops fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance, and dialogue.
Way Ahead There are 22 languages constitutionally approved in India and besides this, hundreds of dialects (our nation has more than 415 different dialects) are spoken across the country. The imposition of a common language can give a blow to the federal spirit of the constitution and also can create burning contentions among the different linguistic groups. Looking at this scenario, the government must act diplomatically and also take measures for the quality implementation of the ideas and make it easily accessible to the people. Otherwise, the imposition of Hindi may lead to the deep-seated language crisis in India.